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Women and Trade Networks in West Africa

image of Women and Trade Networks in West Africa

Women make a significant contribution to West Africa's food economy, perpetuating a long tradition of commerce and participating in cross-border trade and regional outreach. Their activities face numerous obstacles but also present important opportunities, highlighted in this report through an unprecedented relational and spatial analysis of social networks. The study focuses on the rice sector in the Dendi region (Benin, Niger and Nigeria) and on the regional governance networks that support women's entrepreneurship. It confirms that Nigeria occupies a privileged position due to its demographics and growing urbanisation. The report proposes the development of innovative public policies based on the reinforcement of the social capital of women and policy approaches that promote better integration of the initiatives undertaken by governments, international and non-governmental organisations to empower women and strengthen their resilience.

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Gender and cross-border trade networks

Chapter 4 maps the women and men involved in the rice sector of the Niger River valley, between Benin, Niger and Nigeria. Using a relational approach, this analysis shows that women occupy a structurally peripheral position in the network relative to men no matter which measure of centrality is used. There are fewer women in the sector, they have fewer commercial partners, they are less likely to be intermediaries and are much less well-connected to very central actors than their male counterparts. These findings demonstrate the importance of social networks to regional economic development and the social inequalities that they can generate. From a spatial perspective, this study shows that three-quarters of entrepreneurs develop business relationships within their own countries. Only a minority of wholesalers are capable of delivering rice to the large Nigerian consumption markets despite Nigeria’s import restrictions.

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